Spaceflight Insider

Rocket Lab sets launch window for next Electron launch

Rocket Lab's Electron rocket stands on the pad at the company's New Zealand launch facility. Photo credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket stands on the pad at the company’s New Zealand launch facility. Photo credit: Rocket Lab

Following the recent announcement about the company’s preparations for the upcoming launch of its Electron rocket, Rocket Lab is now targeting a 10-day window in early December. Opening at 2:30 p.m. New Zealand Time (01:30 GMT) Dec. 8, 2017, the window will last for four hours during each of the attempts.

The mission patch for the second flight of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket. Image credit: Rocket Lab

The mission patch for the second flight of the Electron rocket. Image credit: Rocket Lab

Still Testing


The company’s founder and CEO, Peter Beck, said the lengthy window will give Rocket Lab ample opportunity to overcome likely delays for the young launch system.

“Once again, we’re expecting to scrub multiple times as we wait for perfect conditions and make sure everything on the vehicle is performing as it should,” Beck said in a release issued by the company.

This second launch – christened “Still Testing” by the U.S.-based launch provider – will lift off from the company’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. Situated on the tip of the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island, the launch pad is the first orbital launch site in the island nation.

Indeed, Rocket Lab’s maiden flight in May 2017 marked the first-ever launch of a private rocket from a private launch facility. That inaugural mission, appropriately named “It’s a Test,” saw the Electron rocket actually reach space, though it failed to achieve orbit.

“While it was disappointing to see the flight terminated in essence due to an incorrect tick box. We can say we tested nearly everything, including the flight termination system,” Beck said in a previous release.

Unlike that first flight, “Still Testing” will be carrying three small satellites to orbit. Sitting atop the Electron will be two Lemur-2 satellites, as well as a single Dove satellite.

The Dove CubeSat, manufactured and operated by Planet Labs, will join Planet’s existing constellation of imaging satellites, adding to the company’s stable of hardware. Likewise, Spire‘s Lemur CubeSats will take their place among the company’s collection of weather and tracking satellites already on orbit.

Though the payloads are small, they are an important evolution of Rocket Lab from a startup into a commercial launch provider.

“This is the first test carrying customer payloads and we’ll be monitoring everything closely as we attempt to reach orbit,” Beck said.

Rocket Lab is hopeful that, should this launch be successful, the company can cancel its remaining test flight and begin full commercial operations. 

In contrast to the first launch, Rocket Lab plans to provide live video coverage via the company’s website approximately 15 minutes before liftoff launch.

Video courtesy of Rocket Lab

 

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Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting – and safer – career field. He’s worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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